Tuesday, May 28, 2024


After one too-many derailments of boxcars during the last operating session, I finally dove into a long over-due fleet-wide car weight program--adding weight.  


With only a couple of notable exceptions (hooray for Tangent and Moloco!) most stock model freight cars fall below the NMRA recommended car weight.  Some are under that recommendation by more than an ounce, where their recommended weight should be 4.5 to 5 ounces for a nominal fifty-foot car.  Many of my cars have extended draft gear—typical of car models representing those with sliding sill or end of car cushioning devices.  Southern Pacific was a major proponent of the Hydra-Cushion underframe system, so I have a lot of those cars.


The rush to populate my railroad for the PDX2015 convention is long past, but the effects of that effort linger.  One of the “annoyances” was found with lighter-weight cars with stock weight derailing when long blocks of cars were pushed. That often occurred during staging operations, affecting “only” me, but the same dynamics could take place during operations, especially with mid-train helpers.  


For much of the life of my railroad, I have been handling the car weighting issue on an individual car basis.  This year, I got a bit more aggressive about adding weight to more cars, but that only created additional issues with the decidedly mixed fleet of car weights.  


I finally took a very careful look at a couple of car types that previously eluded my weight program.  A good example was the ExactRail ABOX.  It turns out these cars are molded to very exact standards such that it was difficult for my unmagnified sight to see the fine crack at the ends of the roofs where the separate roof met the car ends.  With my OptiVisor  ™ helping me, I could see how to insert a chisel knife blade into the crack to pry open the gap between roof and car body.  I found the same way into the many Athearn Genesis PC&F insulated boxcars on my layout.  With that, I was off to the races adding weight.


InterMountain 5283 cuft lumber box above and ExactRail ABOX below show two typical weight  additions inside boxcars.


As seen in the photos, I am using large screw-nuts as weights, affixed with adhesive caulk.  I use the same adhesive caulk for this as I use to hold down the track on the roadbed.  It is good for dissimilar materials.  In this application, a little bit of flex in the caulk will help the bond react to temperature changes and just plain handling of the boxcar models.  Along the way, I have even caught a couple of cars where the weights have popped up off the car body floor.


Car weights added to Genesis PC&F RBL insulated boxcars.  I have a lot of these cars in lumber-plywood service.


Most of the boxcars in the current program are being weighted to 5 ounces.  This is above the 4.5 ounces of the NMRA recommended practice for cars of this size (nominal fifty-foot), but I find it is best to “over-weight” in most cases.  The extended draft gear on many of these cars makes for a greater distance between couplers, so a bit more weight would be recommended anyway. 


A group of cars receives additional car weight.  Tools of the effort include the postal scale, the chisel knife blade in the green-handled blade holder, and a tube of adhesive caulk.  Just out of sight is my OptiVisor ™.


Working through the car fleet as a fleet-enhancement ensures that all cars on the railroad are receiving attention together.  I pull out complete trains or long strings from a staging yard track and then work through all of those cars.  I used a similar program for the cars in the Eugene Classification Yard (all cars in the yard) and then all industries in a given area (e.g., Springfield).  The railroad has something over five hundred freight cars on it, with perhaps eighty percent of those as house cars.


The current effort concentrated on “house cars” (boxcars and refrigerator cars).  Covered hoppers have their own access issues.  I have been able to get into some of the covered hoppers, but most are sealed with glue and paint.  I will need to find a different weighting system for those, especially the 4650 cuft ACF CenterFlo hoppers that SP was fond of.  Fortunately, my historic car weighting practices put part of my car fleet—that which I ran for decades on my old California-based club layout—in good condition.  Addressing the “new” cars (placed in service from 2015-onward) should help the overall operating fleet.  I look forward to future operating sessions with the enhanced fleet. 

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